Plywood Phone Holder

Blog, Office, Woodworking / Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

I like large, complex projects. There are many facets to them and I often learn or practice a whole host of skills to complete them. Once they’re done, I have this satisfying statement of a finished product. 

Sometimes, however, it’s good to work on a small scale. It helps me focus on the details. I think I read somewhere that the larger the finished piece is, the further the camera needs to be from its imperfections. With something small, you can easily find any imperfections. Since I’m not good at the details, I really should work on a smaller scale more often.

So, when my boss sent me a link to Etsy, stating “You need to make these and I will buy one”, I thought I’d give small a chance.

I do want to take a moment to point out, I did not sell my finished product and I don’t plan to make more of these. The original artist makes beautiful pieces and I don’t want to be perceived as profiting from their work.

I sort of started with no plan in mind. But I sort of had a set plan. I took a piece of paper and folded it a few times so I had some nice 90 degree angles to work with, and made sure they were tall enough to support my phone. They overlapped nicely and this was the blueprint I took into the shop. It was based off the original design, but simplified for my sake.

I had some leftover 0.25 in. plywood from when I worked on the bathroom closet. I slapped my phone down on it for width and then cut a few strips of it to start working with. Here’s what I learned. My jigsaw is fairly imprecise. My circular saw is overkill. The sheet of plywood was too big for my table saw and my radial arm saw, so what ended up working best was a trusty old handsaw. I got the best cut lines with it and since the material was thin enough, I made quick work of it.

Mountain Phone Holder Mock-up

My design called for 5 pieces; two peaks and one base. I knew I wanted one peak to be bigger than the other so I cut two pieces roughly the same size, and then two smaller pieces roughly the same size. I don’t think I used a measuring tool for any of this project, by the way. 

The two peaks needed to intersect at one point. The best and easiest way I knew how to do this was by cutting what I think is called a half lap to fit the pieces together. Each of the intersecting pieces was cut out halfway to allow the other to slide in. I undercut the pieces and then snuck up on the correct sizes using a rasp. I kept going until one side was flush.

After I had the half lap piece ready, I glued both of the peaks. I didn’t put any glue on the half lap yet because I wanted to do some sanding once the glue had dried. I put the 12″ disk sander on the ShopSmith and brought her up to speed. I cleaned up all the edges and the glue joint on the sander. I also used the sander to put a miter on the bottom of the pieces so they would sit flush to the bottom piece of wood. The fresh sandpaper on the sander created a lot of fine dust, and made quick work of the sanding. And since I really like playing with the disk sander, I also took a moment to clean up all the faces of the pieces because I knew it would be easier to do it before everything was assembled.

Once the sanding was done, I put some glue on the bottoms of each piece and clamped it to the bottom piece to dry. I had intentionally made the bottom piece over-sized so I could come back and sand it down cleanly when everything was in place. While gluing, I added a small piece of wood to help prop up a phone on the bottom of the larger peak. 

After the glue dried, I trimmed off the excess in the back of the piece and then sanded it flush with the peak, making sure to keep the same angle as the peak. In the front of the piece where the phone prop is, I ground away much of it until I got the right thickness for to match the rest of the phone holder. It was a feeling more than a measurement. I also rounded over the corners here too, because I though there needed to be a bit of softness when everything else had such harsh lines to it.

Now for my big secret. Since I didn’t measure anything to size and glued rather haphazardly, none of my sides lined up perfectly. To solve this, I took the whole thing over to the disk sander once more and squared up the edges until both sides were a single plane. The sander took a lazy job and made it look very sleek. This was me working on those details. Because I was working small, it was easy to handle the piece and use tools that allowed me to produce a better end result.

For a finish, I put a single coat of colorless Danish oil on it and took it to work the next day.

When I got to work, I eagerly set it out on my desk and put my things on it. Almost instantly, I was disappointed. I love how it came out, but seeing it on my desk, it didn’t say Danny in any way. Also, I really didn’t care for the fact that all I got to see was the plain front face and you had to look at the side to see the interesting peaks of the piece. 

I cleaned my things off of it and brought it over to my boss, who happily took it off my hands. It didn’t speak to me, but it spoke to her. I guess that isn’t much of a surprise, since she was the one who suggested I make it in the first place.

What do you think? Would you have kept it on your desk?

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